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Lili Wright Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Dancing with the Tiger (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Lili Wright is an American author best known for her work Dancing with the Tiger, a literary thriller. She has also written Learning to Float, a highly popular travel memoir. Wright worked as a journalist for a decade before she got her MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University. Since then her journalist works and essays have been featured in Down East, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and The New York Times among many other renowned publications. In late 2016, the Mark Gordon Company acquired the right to adapt Wright’s popular first novel, Dancing with the Tiger into a film. She has been to Mexico many times where she has visited ghost towns, worked as a journalist, watched parades of dancing tigers, lived with Mexican families, started her mask collection, and learned how to speak Spanish. She is currently a professor of journalism and creative writing at DePauw University. She lives in with her husband and two children in Greencastle in an old Victorian era house in Greencastle, Indiana.

While she is not a Mexican, Lili Wright does a good job writing about the country, its sensitivities, culture, and people. Her narratives focus on expatriates, given that this is a world that she is conversant with having been an expatriate for many years. She has lived in Mexico twice: once in Oaxaca and once in Miguel de Allende, and hence has a good understanding of the dynamics between the local Mexicans and the expatriates that they mostly work for. She has also lived with Mexican families in Merida, Cuernavaca, and Guadalajara, while she was traveling in Mexico. A linguist, she is very much interested in language and speaks Spanish, though this has been interfered with ever since she tried to learn Italian. She claims to now speak a mish mash of the two languages that she calls Spanitalian. The novels are a study in the stratification between the mostly American expatriates in Mexico and their Mexican employees. The relationship is one of trust, commerce, affection, resentment, and codependency. Wright has asserted that she has never been able to reconcile herself with titles such as La Senora, as they made it difficult for her to enter the inside track towards understanding Mexican society. A common theme in the novels is that as much as Americans may try to fit it, they will always remain the other.

Lili Wright has been called a literary thriller writer, given that most of her works do not fit snugly in any one genre making them hard to categorize. In an interview, Wright asserted that she does not have a model when she begins writing a book. Rather, she just writes a novel that she would have loved to read: one with a mixture of love story, modern thriller, and travel writing that comes with strong visuals, graceful sentences, multiple perspectives, and short chapters. What makes the novels so great is the fact that most of the characters seem so unconnected yet their stories converge in a thrilling yet believable narrative. For instance, Wright’s Learning to Float, which was her first novel and a travel memoir may be said to be a woman’s travel book. Similarly, Dancing with the Tiger is a twist on the first, as it is a fictional women’s travel book. Lili loves to write of women in trouble that find themselves through their travels.

Lili Wright’s novels have borrowed many elements from a number of genres. For instance, Soledad of Dancing with the Tiger speaks almost exclusively in prayer, giving her quite a macabre character. Many chapters also end in a cliffhanger. The sections that incorporate these aspects are more lyrical. Wright is not afraid of stretching the limits as she explores the culture through the writing. Magic realism, which is preeminent in Latin American literature, is evident in the novels through her play of magic realism. Some parts of the novels such as the chapters on the worldview of dogs almost make the novels seem like a fairy tale. But even as Lili Wright does not take the novels too seriously, she successfully tackles issues of the human spirit, citizenship, love and grief. Switching between several points of view, Wright shows how good of a storyteller she is, as she wrestles with life’s most poignant questions, while still offering surprises, thrills, and a good dose of humor.

The first novel by Lili Wright, Dancing with the Tiger is a literary thriller that introduces us to Anna, an American expatriate that is on a quest to find an extremely valuable and ancient funeral mask that belonged to Montezuma. Throwing herself into the dangerous and corrupt world of art dealing, she is determined to complete her father’s research on the artefact. But it is never smooth sailing when such rare and valuable items are involved, as she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a famous drug lord. More than filial redemption, Anna is looking to belong in the foreign society, and transform herself into a better person. In a city full of masked men, finding the prized artefact is an exercise of desperation. Juxtaposing the need to stay in hiding versus hiding in plain sight, the novel is a great read for anyone that loves a flawed heroine that removes her mask, when it would be safest to keep it on.

Learning to Float: The Journey of a Woman, a Dog, and Just Enough Men is the first work by Lili Wright. It is a memoir of her solo journey from Maine to Key West, which follows her romantic escapades with a dreamy writer, a responsible veterinarian, a ski bum, a Nantucket waiter, and a wealthy Greenwich banker. After she says no to a man who was ready to move from rural Utah to New York, she reckoned that it is time she settled down. Determined to live her life and let go of the past, she takes up her bags and goes south flitting from town to town having flings with several men. She is offered homespun wisdom, places to sleep, astrological readings, fishing lessons, boat rides, and drinks. It is in Key West where she gets an epiphany that tells her that maybe it is time to let love which she has resisted for far too long take over.

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